Road Trip – Part 16 – Washing Maple Sap Buckets

Thursday, April 16

1 (1)Before washing buckets, lids, and hoses, the cooker was put away until maple syrup time next spring.

1 (2)Being backed into it’s storage spot.

1aWheels are removed…

1b (1)…and put in the shed (by Jeremiah).

1b (2)There it will rest until next cooking season.

1b (3)Then it was time to begin washing 308 buckets and lids.

1cBob and Cerwin did most of the washing.

DSC_0150Jeremiah rinsing.

DSC_0158Japheth Jr. bringing me a clean bucket.

DSC_0161Tapping it on this block of wood to get rid of excess water.

DSC_0163I was Director of Stacking Buckets.

DSC_0165Wayne bringing clean lids from the house.

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DSC_0166Loraine stacking lids for drying.

DSC_0172Jaden emptying the trailer.

DSC_0175Lynne playing with baby Rose.

DSC_0177Wayne bringing sticky buckets to his mom and grandma.

DSC_0178Lily, Aimee, and Doris washing lids.

DSC_0180Violet with sticky lids.

DSC_0181Back  to the bucket brigade.

DSC_0184Violet stacking sticky buckets.

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DSC_0190Loraine is almost finished stacking lids.

DSC_0193Jaden bringing me clean buckets.

DSC_0194I think this was his favorite job of the day.

DSC_0195Loraine rinsing.

DSC_0201Jeremiah, Lily, and Wayne with sticky hoses.

DSC_0204Japheth Jr and Jaden

DSC_0209308 clean lids.

DSC_0211Wayne giving Lily a ride.

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DSC_0218Nearing the end.

DSC_0219Aimee replaced Cerwin in washing buckets while he took a phone call.

DSC_0222My finished job – 308 buckets.

DSC_0237Doris rinsing hoses.

DSC_0242I tied them in bundles of ten and hung them over a wash line to dry.

So ended a busy day – well not quite – Bob and Doris took us to town for supper at Perkins.

Road Trip – Part 10 – Making Maple Syrup

April 13 through 15

I combined photos from several days to explain the way Bob and Doris gather sap and make maple syrup.

I learned that there in no “normal” in the time it takes each batch to cook or gallons of sap it takes to make one gallon of syrup, because it depends on the sap and the weather on the day when it is boiled.

Maple Syrup (1)This year their taps were put out during the second week of March.

They use mostly hard maples.

Maple Syrup (2)With this style tap there is a hole in the side of the bucket that fits on the tap.

Maple Syrup (3)They also use a hose-style tap – mostly double, but they also have several singles.

Maple Syrup (4)With this style, the hoses fit into a hole in the lid.

Maple Syrup (5)When they are finished setting taps, the woods looks something like this.

This year they put out 385 taps in 308 buckets.

Sap runs best when the nights are in the low 20s and the days in the low 40s.

Maple Syrup (6)After the taps are set, they must prepare the cookers – the large one in the center and the small, finish cooker on the left.

Maple Syrup (7)Then they periodically go back to the woods to gather sap – sometimes with the help of children or grandchildren.

Maple Syrup (8)The two grandchildren in this picture are Loraine and Jaden.

Maple Syrup (9)Pouring sap into the portable tank – with the help of Jeremiah, a grandson.

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Maple Syrup (11)After emptying every bucket, Bob goes back to their place and prepares to transfer sap into the cooker.

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Maple Syrup (14)The cooker will hold 96 gallons of sap.

Maple Syrup (16)Soon the portable tank is tilted to get every bit of liquid.

Maple Syrup (17)In this case, it was the last gathering of the season.

Maple Syrup (18)There is also a tank on the second floor of the shed for the other two families who bring sap for Bob and Doris to cook or when they have more than 96 gallons.

Their son Jon and his family have 400 taps and a friend Jesse and his family have 600 taps.

Maple Syrup (18a)This photo (taken from our bedroom window) shows the hoses that come from the second floor of the shop – also part of his storage of wood.

Maple Syrup (19)Hot sap running into the cooker from the second floor of the shop – hot because it has gone through a preheater on the chimney.

Maple Syrup (21)A view of the cooker from the shop.

Maple Syrup (22)Doris starting a fire.

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Maple Syrup (25)Bob prefers Jack Pine because it burns hot.

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Maple Syrup (28)The sap is just about to boil.

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Maple Syrup (30)Doris keeping a check on the progress.

Maple Syrup (31)Removing foam that gathers as it boils.

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Maple Syrup (34)Bob moving the sap from one end to the other to keep an even boil.

Maple Syrup (35)He periodically measures the depth of the sap.

Maple Syrup (36)A hydrometer will tell Bob when the cooking process is complete.

Maple Syrup (37)When he thinks the syrup is almost finished, he drains a bit of hot liquid into this tube…

Maple Syrup (38)…then inserts the hydrometer. If it rises to a certain height, it is time to stop the cooking.

It wasn’t quite ready, so back to more boiling, while keeping a close eye on the texture.

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Maple Syrup (40)He tests it again. This time it is ready.

Maple Syrup (41)As the syrup changes in texture and they know the process will soon be finished, they use less and less wood, and when it is finished, all wood and ashes are removed from the stove.

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Maple Syrup (43)The delightful smelling liquid is ready to be transferred to the finish cooker.

I am ready for pancakes!

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Maple Syrup (45)Doris usually oversees the draining and straining during this process.

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Maple Syrup (47)Bob transfers the filled buckets to the finish cooker.

Maple Syrup (48)The large cooker is empty.

Maple Syrup (49)Washing the cooker.

Maple Syrup (50)It is again boiled to perfection.

Bob said there is no exact ratio, but it usually takes about 32 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup.

Maple Syrup (52)The next process is filtering.

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Maple Syrup (57)Before filtering, diatomaceous earth is added.

Maple Syrup (58)This forms a complex matrix that traps suspended solids while allowing maple syrup to pass through.

Maple Syrup (59)When the filter is turned on, the syrup runs from finish cooker, through a hose, through the filter, through a second hose, to the collection container.

Maple Syrup (60)The pressure gauge tells Bob when to change filters.

Maple Syrup (61)The final stage is bottling – while still hot so the lids seal.

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Maple Syrup (65)The lighter syrup is from early in the season and the darker from the end of the season.

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Maple Syrup (67)This year they bottled a total of 140 gallon – theirs, Jon’s, and Jesse’s.

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After watching all the work involved, I have a new appreciation for the price of maple syrup.